Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 150 – Karen Stewart

For episode 150 of the Metta Hour, Sharon speaks with Karen Stewart.

Karen is a Mental Health Psychosocial Support Specialist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over thirty years of working in a wide variety of mental health settings. Ten of those years have been working with Doctors Without Borders throughout Asia and Africa. Learn about Karen’s offerings at karenstewart.org.

To start the conversation, Karen shares what brought her to social work after a traumatic childhood. They discuss the meaning of the word “trauma” and the different forms of trauma: acute, chronic, and complex trauma. They discuss the difference between trauma and PTSD and the concept of Post-Traumatic-Growth. Karen shares some of her experience working with Doctors Without Borders in catastrophic environments and how she provides mental health resources to those communities. They speak at length about resilience and how to bolster our stress response in a more balanced way. Sharon reflects on the epidemic of loneliness that so many experienced before the pandemic and how it has evolved a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Karen shares some breathing, grounding, and gratitude techniques to counteract pandemic fatigue and loss stressors. The episode closes with a discussion on resilience and a healthy lifestyle for individuals and those in the personal or professional caregiving roles and a Containment Practice led by Karen.

Trauma & Mental Health

Welcoming Karen Stuart to the podcast as an engaging addition to the Metta Hour’s series on mental health, Sharon invites her to share what catalysts aimed her in the direction of working in mental health, helping patients overcome trauma. Karen explains that her interest comes from her own story of addiction and suicidal ideations as a teen. Through finding happiness, sobriety, and overcoming her own traumas, Karen was inspired to live a life helping others through addiction, mental illness, and trauma.

“Trauma means a response to a deeply disturbing event that overwhelmed the individual’s ability to cope or function. It can be acute; a single stressful event. Or, chronic trauma; more prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Then, we have complex trauma; multiple traumatic events on top of each other.” – Karen Stewart

Join Sharon Salzberg for an illuminating conversation exploring how to heal collective trauma, on Ep. 145 of the Metta Hour
Stress, Situational Trauma, & Balance (8:10)

Through the lens of mental health and trauma, Sharon shares a model of working with our stressors, offering questions of inquiry for checking in internally with oneself. From here, she invites Karen to explain what it is like working with Doctors Without Borders, where she travels to extreme situations, collective traumas, and natural disastersto both hear individuals’ needs and share with them psycho-education resources for working with their pain, fears, and suffering.

“There’s the stressor, circumstance, pressure, and incident coming at us or arising within us. Then, there’s the resource in which it’s met: Do we feel any energy or inspiration to meet it in a different way? How kind are we to ourselves in what we’re going through? What sense of resource do we have? Do we feel depleted? What amount of community do we feel? Or, do we feel isolated? All those factors so clearly effect the ways we experience stress.” – Sharon Salzberg

For a tantric and scientific approach to dealing with stress and uncertainty, join Dale Borglum, on Ep. 47 of Healing at the Edge
Loneliness, Connection, & Peer Support (19:50)

Speaking to the difficulties of support and connection during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Karen and Sharon dive into the individual loneliness and collective mental health struggles we find ourselves in. Explaining that the way past fear and anxiety is through our level of connection, the two explore ways we can support each other peer-to-peer through reconnecting and opening to neighbors, friends, and other beings.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a crisis, a disaster, or critical incident; one thing we always know to determining how well you’re gonna fair with that, is your level of social connectedness. To lower the fear, to lower the anxiety, is to really hang on to other people.”– Karen Stewart

Open yourself to a podcast exploring our roots and relationship to community and connection, on Ep. 24 of ReRooted